AAA Thanksgiving Travel Forecast — About 1.1 million Washington area residents will travel 50 more more miles this Thanksgiving holiday, according to AAA Mid-Atlantic. That’s up 3.1 percent over 2013. About 90 percent of those travelers will journey to grandma’s house via automobile, AAA says. The lowest gas prices since Dec. 2010 are helping to drive some additional travel this year. [Reston Now]
What’s Next for the Pike? — Now that the streetcar is dead, articulated buses may be next for Columbia Pike. But that would require reinforcing the roadway and building a new bus depot. [Greater Greater Washington]
Beyer Joins ‘New Democrat Coalition’ — Arlington’s newly-elected representative in Congress, Don Beyer, has joined the House New Democrat Coalition, a group of pro-growth Democrats. [Blue Virginia]
Moran Laments Loss of Earmarks — Outgoing Rep. Jim Moran (D-Va.) says earmarks, while demonized by the media and some politicians, actually helped the legislative process. The loss of earmarks has slowed Congress to a crawl, Moran said. [InsideNova]
Flickr pool photo by Erinn Shirley
GOP, Democrats Support Amendment — The Arlington County Republican and Democratic committees agree on at least one thing: they both support a proposed Virginia constitutional amendment that would exempt the the principal residence of a fallen U.S. servicemember’s spouse from taxation. [InsideNova]
Chamber Launches Program for Young Entrepreneurs — The Arlington Chamber of Commerce has launched a local affiliate of the Young Entrepreneurs Academy program. The program will help students ages 11-18 develop entrepreneurial skills after school. [Patch]
AAA Warns of Sun Glare — AAA is warning that sun glare could make the evening commute more hazardous for east-to-west commuters through the end of daylight saving time on Nov. 3. “Motorists should take additional precautions to avoid being blinded by the light including wearing sunglasses, cleaning their windshields, slowing down, and altering their commutes whenever possible,” said AAA Mid-Atlantic’s John Townsend.
Photo courtesy @jdsonder
Today Is Terrible Traffic Tuesday — AAA Mid-Atlantic has again dubbed today Terrible Traffic Tuesday. With vacations over and kids back in school, rush hour trips are expected to increase in length by 26 percent today, on average. Washington, the auto club says, has the worst rush hour traffic in the nation. [AAA Mid-Atlantic]
Fairfax School May Be Model for Arlington – Fairfax County unveiled a new five-story urban-style elementary school, with tech-laden and light-filled classrooms. The school, in the Seven Corners area, may be a model for a future school in Arlington, which is struggling to find enough open space for new schools. [InsideNova]
Shuttleworth Wins Pie-Eating Contest — Bowen Shuttleworth, the son of former Congressional candidate Bruce Shuttleworth and an emerging track champ, emerged victorious in the pie-eating contest (photo, above) at the annual Arlington County Democratic Committee Labor Day chili cookoff on Monday. The cookoff itself was interrupted by thunderstorms.
Flickr pool photo by Alan Kotok
The change will result in an extra hour of daylight in the evening, but will come at the cost of darker mornings and an hour of lost sleep.
AAA Mid-Atlantic warns that the change can leave drivers drowsy on Monday morning. The automobile association issued the following press release, urging drivers to make sure to get at least 7 hours of sleep.
Come Monday morning, many drivers may have lost a spring in their step and may not be fully alert as they travel to work and school.
What’s more, many motorists may now be faced with a darker morning drive or sun glare from a rising, as well as setting sun depending on their commuting times, advises AAA Mid-Atlantic. Losing an hour of sleep and the change in daylight hours means motorists may potentially experience drowsy driving and added distractions of the road. In addition to the change of daylight, children, pedestrians, joggers, walker, bicyclists and motorcyclists will likely be more active outdoors. For safety’s sake, it behooves motorists to keep a watchful eye for all highway users as the days become longer.
“Each spring we go through the ritual of setting our clocks forward one hour. While some believe ‘just an hour’ of lost sleep is not significant, many people, who are already sleep deprived going into the weekend, are more likely to be impaired from an attention and safety standpoint,” said Mahlon G. (Lon) Anderson, AAA Mid-Atlantic’s Managing Director of Public and Government Affairs. “A change in time can affect people physically and drivers can be more tired than they realize.”
To prevent this, AAA Mid-Atlantic recommends people, especially motorists, prepare in advance for the time change by increasing their sleep time in the days ahead and getting a good night’s sleep on Sunday.” An estimated 17 percent of fatal crashes, 13 percent of crashes resulting in hospitalization, and seven percent of all crashes requiring a tow involve a drowsy driver, according to a 2010 study by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) estimates that drowsy driving causes more than 100,000 crashes a year. The actual figure may be higher because police can’t always determine with certainty when driver fatigue results or is a contributory factor in a crash.
“You are getting sleepy, very sleepy.” AAA Mid-Atlantic advises motorists to make sure they get adequate sleep before getting behind the wheel of their vehicle. The National Sleep Foundation recommends that most adults get 7-9 hours of sleep to maintain proper alertness during the day. Studies show that sleep needs vary by age group.
Nearly 2.4 million people, or about 41 percent of the metro region’s population, are expected to travel 50 miles or more during the time period from this Saturday, December 21, through Wednesday, January 1. That’s a small increase of 0.1 percent over last year. This will be the fifth consecutive year for such an increase, and the highest recorded travel volume for the winter holiday season.
“Unfortunately, a number of Washingtonians sat out three of the first four holiday travel periods of the year as an upshot of all the political drama in the nation’s capital and the economic stress it engendered. But they will not be denied nor deny themselves or their families during the Christmas and New Year’s holiday travel period,” said John B. Townsend II, AAA Mid-Atlantic’s Manager of Public and Government Affairs.
Air travel is expected to slightly decline to 129,300 travelers, compared with 130,400 last year. The number of people traveling by train or bus is also down this year, by about two percent. Automobile travel, however, is expected to increase by 0.3 percent, to more than 2.1 million people.
D.C. metro area residents plan on traveling an average of 965 miles for the holidays. That’s up from 805 miles last year.
AAA Mid-Atlantic is reminding motorists to drive carefully in wet weather.
The association sent out the following press release this afternoon.
As the coastal storm continues through the Washington metro area today, motorists will face hazardous driving conditions during their evening commute due to rain and standing water, warns AAA Mid-Atlantic. The auto club is advising motorists to exercise caution when driving.
“Commuters heading home tonight will face the same hazardous weather conditions as this morning’s drive to work,” said John B. Townsend II, AAA Mid-Atlantic’s Manager of Public and Government Affairs. “When driving in wet weather remember to buckle up, slow down, and keep a safe distance from the car in front of you. Also, remember, it’s the law in the District of Columbia, Maryland and Virginia to turn your headlights on if your windshield wipers are in use.”
To minimize the hazards associated with wet weather driving, AAA Mid-Atlantic recommends the following precautions for navigating in heavy rain, reduced visibility and slick pavement:
- Slow down and increase following distances. Speed limits are set for ideal road conditions. When it rains, visibility is reduced and braking distances increase. On dry pavement, a safe following distance permits two to three seconds for stopping; that should be increased to eight seconds on slippery roads. Train your eyes farther down the road than normal, so you can anticipate changes and adjust your course gradually.
- Do not attempt to drive through standing water on the roads that look too deep. Avoid bridges and roads that are known to flood. When driving on pothole-filled roads, hold the steering wheel firmly to avoid losing control. Just a few inches of water can turn your vehicle into a boat, and could put your life, and the lives of those around you, at great risk. Turn around; find another way to get to your destination.
- Watch out for hydroplaning. No car is immune from hydroplaning on wet surfaces, including four-wheel drive vehicles. Just because brakes work under normal conditions doesn’t mean they will react the same on slippery roads where tires roll with far less traction.
- Alert drivers behind you that you’re slowing with your brake lights. Without anti-lock brakes, squeeze the brakes until they are about to lock up and then release. With anti-lock brakes, use the same move – but don’t pump the brakes, which would work against the operation of the ABS system. Slow down as you approach a pothole. However, do not brake when your vehicle is directly over a pothole.
- Use the central lanes. When driving during heavy rain, use center lanes of the road (without straddling the yellow line). Avoid outside lanes where the water collects at curbside.
- Use low-beam headlights to help other drivers see your car and increase visibility.
- Use your defroster with your air conditioning to keep the air dry and prevent windows from fogging.
- Do not drive around barricades. Many lives have been lost when drivers disregard official orders and find themselves trapped in rising waters.
- Turn off the cruise control in wet weather driving. The use of cruise control on wet roads can cause hydroplaning.
- If conditions worsen to the point where there is any doubt about your safety, take the nearest exit and find a safe location. Don’t just stop on the shoulder or under a bridge where you may feel less anxiety. If your visibility is compromised, other drivers may be struggling too.
- Watch for slick spots on the road. Fumes and oil leaks that build up on dry pavement rise to the surface of the road when it rains, making the road far slicker than it may seem.
The organization estimates that 811,500 people will travel at least 50 miles this weekend, a 2.6 percent increase from 2012. Of those travelers, 707,000 — or 87 percent — are expected to travel by car. About 8 percent will travel by air and 5 percent will travel by train, bus or boat, AAA projects.
AAA says the average traveler will journey about 600 miles, which is close to the national average. Gas prices are “unlikely to be a major factor for people in determining whether they will travel this Labor Day,” even though most consider the current national average of $3.54 a gallon “too high,” according to AAA.
“Call it summer’s last fling,” said John B. Townsend II, AAA Mid-Atlantic’s Manager of Public and Government Affairs. “After staying put throughout the summer, Washingtonians are yearning for travel, so they are getting the heck out of town for Labor Day. In fact, this is the fourth year of increases in local Labor Day travelers in the Washington metro area.”
“The effect of sequestration is still felt locally,” Townsend continued. “However, local residents can now gauge its full impact on their discretionary budgets with the recent announcement that the number of civilian furlough days has been reduced from 11 to six. That’s enough unanticipated good news to put folks around here in the mood to travel.”
In Virginia alone, nearly 72,000 DoD employees are affected by furloughs, which require one unpaid day off per week for 11 weeks. The state is expected to be particularly hard hit by the cuts due to the Pentagon being housed in Arlington.
It’s too early to definitively claim furloughs will ease traffic congestion, but AAA believes fewer people on the road could lead to less gridlock and fewer accidents. In fact, the organization suggests commutes could resemble those of July and August, when the region experiences its lowest traffic volume and rate of accidents.
“For all other workers, the morning and evening commutes to the daily grind could look like it does on any of the ten federal holidays in the Washington metro area or on Fridays, when federal workers use their flex-time schedules or compressed work weeks (AWS) to take time off,” said John B. Townsend II, AAA Mid-Atlantic’s Manager of Public and Government Affairs.
AAA predicts Metrorail and Metrobus ridership may be affected as well. According to WMATA, nearly half of peak period commuters are federal employees and 35 Metrorail stations serve federal facilities, including the Pentagon in Arlington.
Rep. Jim Moran (D) took to Twitter earlier today to express his displeasure with the furloughs. He also sent the following statement to ARLnow.com:
“Due to sequestration, today marked the first of 11 furlough days for 650,000 DOD civilian employees. This 20 percent pay cut is the unfortunate and shameful result of Congress’ failure to work together to find an appropriate way to reduce the federal debt and deficit. I voted against the Budget Control Act that set up sequestration not only because it focused solely on cutting discretionary spending at the expense of increased revenues, but I feared that the Supercommittee could not find compromise. Congress must make tough choices, but we cannot balance the budget on the backs of our federal workers.”
Sietsema Skewers La Tagliatella — Washington Post food critic Tom Sietsema has delivered a devastating half-star review of La Tagliatella, the European-based Italian restaurant chain that recently opened in Clarendon and is planning to open in Shirlington. The restaurant “makes a strong case for hazard pay for restaurant critics,” Sietsema wrote, and future locations (like Shirlington) “have my condolences.” In a subsequent online chat, Sietsema said that La Tagliatella was several notches below the Falls Church Olive Garden in terms of the overall dining experience. [Washington Post]
AAA Predicts Lower Gas Prices — Gas prices in Virginia will fall 6 cents after July 1 thanks to the bipartisan transportation package that passed the state legislature this year, AAA predicts. Another byproduct of the legislation: the state sales tax in Northern Virginia will rise from 5 to 6 percent. [Sun Gazette]
Forum on Transportation Projects — Arlington’s Transportation Commission will hold a public forum next week to review projects under consideration for funding by the Northern Virginia Transportation Authority. Projects proposed by Arlington County include the Columbia Pike Multimodal Improvement Project, the Crystal City Multimodal Center, ART fleet expansion (Silver/Blue Line mitigation), and a new Boundary Channel Drive interchange. [Arlington County]
Last night, around 10:00 p.m., an SUV somehow crashed through a barrier on the south side of the Memorial Bridge and landed in the Potomac River.
The driver, the SUV’s lone occupant, escaped the watery wreck and was transported to a local hospital with non-life-threatening injuries. Charges are now pending against the driver, according to U.S. Park Police spokesman Sgt. Paul Brooks.
If you’ve ever feared making a wrong turn and driving off the side of a bridge, AAA Mid-Atlantic has some potentially helpful tips for you. From a press release:
Although they are considered worst-case scenarios, such crashes rarely happen, safety officials and experts say. But that’s of little consolation to local drivers when their vehicle suddenly goes deep six or becomes a leaking boat. What you do and how you react within moments of the crash into the abyss will determine whether you live or die in a watery grave, the auto club advises. “Add darkness and near freezing water, and your chances of escape have greatly diminished,” safety experts warns.
“Although less than one-half of one percent of all automobile crashes involves a vehicle being submerged under water, it is still a very frightening situation to motorists and their terrified passengers, especially young children and the elderly,” said John B. Townsend II, AAA Mid-Atlantic’s Manager of Public and Government Affairs. “Previous research shows that between 400 to 600 persons lose their lives each year in the United States, as their vehicles plummet into a canal, river, or a ditch for that matter.”
Annually, almost ten percent of all drowning deaths in the United States can be attributed to being submerged in a car. If children are in the car, the driver or the adult should focus on getting the children out safely first and keeping them from panicking during the petrifying ordeal. In most crashes of this nature, the heaviest end of the deep-sixed vehicle – usually the end with the engine – will begin sinking first, pulling the car down at an angle, notes Popular Mechanic. That is, unless the water is 15 feet or deeper. In that case, the vehicle may land on its roof, compounding the dangers and risks for the occupants.
Although most vehicles will float for three or four minutes before they start sinking due to the surprising buoyancy of the vehicle in deep water and depending upon on the airtightness of the vehicles, time is still of the essence, advises AAA Mid-Atlantic. The overarching concern is getting to dry land as quickly as possible. Your safety and the lives of your passengers depend upon that.
So, the first key to surviving such a mishap is remaining calm, according to safety experts. Underscoring this, the National Safety Commission puts it this way: “The first and most important thing to remember, if your vehicle is submerged, is to remain CALM – easier said than done-but it’s the most important thing you can do to stay alive.” However, the experts tend to vary on their tips. For example, the brothers Magliozzi, Tom and Ray, of NPR’s “Car Talk” say: “The correct way to get out of a sinking car is to float in the cabin until water is within about 2 inches of the roof. At that time pressure in and outside the car will be equal and it will be easy to open the door and swim out.”
- Don’t panic. Once your car hits the water it will not sink immediately (You will have at least one or two minutes before the car begins to sink, safety experts say).
- If possible, jump out while car is on surface.
- If your car is still floating, roll down the window and unbuckle your seat belt to escape.
- If your car is submerged, safety experts suggest remaining buckled up while you break the driver or passenger’s side window to escape.
- Allow the pressure of the water to equalize inside the sodden vehicle before attempting to open the doors or windows. Water weighs 62.4 lbs. per cubic foot.
- Move toward rear of vehicle where the air bubble is forming.
- Water pressure against the water-logged doors will make opening the doors very difficult until the pressure inside of the vehicle and outside of the vehicle are equal.
- Open your windows to allow yourself and your passengers to escape (Contrary to popular opinion, the “power windows won’t stop working within seconds after impact.” The power can stay on as along as 10 minutes).
The nightmarish crash from the Memorial Bridge is a reminder to motorists of the importance of carrying and keeping a sharp tool, such as a Philips screwdriver or a spring-loaded center punch, in their glove compartment or in the cabin of their vehicle. The tool is a life-saver. Here’s why: it allows you to break the tempered glass to extricate yourself and your passengers from the sinking vehicle. Other salient tips include:
- If the windows are blocked, try to push the windshield or rear window out with your feet or shoulder.
- Rescue the children or passengers who need assistance to help them to escape. If children are in the sinking or submerged car, unbuckle their seatbelts and or child passenger seat, starting with the oldest child first.
- Safeguard the kids. Push the children out of the vehicle ahead of you.
- Always keep a window-breaking tool in your vehicle in an easily accessible location, safety experts suggest.
- Remove heavy clothing before attempting to swim to safety.
- Swim to the surface as safely and quickly as possible (swim in the direction of the current if you’re in deep water).
- Push off for quick rise to the surface.
- If you can’t swim try to float. Use your body’s natural buoyancy to float. Make sure to raise your head to breathe.
- Call for medical attention as quickly as possible.
Ironically, just last week crews from the Federal Highway Administration reportedly began an “extensive inspection of the deck of the iconic 80-year-old Arlington Memorial Bridge, a process that is expected to continue through March 5. In September the 2,163 feet long bridge underwent a two month long renovation, costing $788,375, to repair and replace its entire driving surface.
Photos courtesy Mark P.
Students Head Back to School — Today is the first day of school for nearly 23,000 Arlington Public School students. School start times vary in Arlington, from 7:50 a.m. for middle schools to 9:24 a.m. for the H-B Woodlawn Secondary program. Superintendent Dr. Patrick Murphy has created a back-to-school video for students and parents. Arlington County, meanwhile, is urging drivers to be especially cautious on the roads this morning.
AAA Warns of ‘Terrible Traffic Tuesday’ — AAA Mid-Atlantic is warning of “the mother of all gridlock” today, a day the organization has dubbed “Terrible Traffic Tuesday.” With students heading back to school and workers back from summer vacations, AAA expects traffic congestion to spike 26 percent compared to mid-summer. Adding to the congestion in Arlington will be the 146 yellow APS school buses on the roads. [AAA Mid-Atlantic, Bethesda Now]
Special Election Today — Voters in Virginia’s 45th House of Delegates District will head to the polls today in the special election to replace Del. David Englin, who resigned following the admission that he had an extramarital affair. The three candidates in the race are Tim McGhee (R), Rob Krupicka (D) and Justin Malkin (L). Only five electoral precincts in Arlington are included in the 45th District: Aurora Hills, Fairlington, Abingdon, Oakridge, and Shirlington. [Arlington County]
Flickr pool photo by Maryva2
Despite quickly rising gas prices – jumping at least 40 cents in the past two months – AAA says this will be the busiest Labor Day weekend in terms of travel since 2008 and the start of the recession. It’s the third summer holiday travel period this year projected to set a post-recession record.
Some 799,900 Washington area residents are expected to travel more than 50 miles for Labor Day, up 3.5 percent from 2011. Of those travelers, 86.8 percent are expected to travel by car, 7.9 percent by air, and 5.3 percent by other means.
AAA is cautioning travelers to check weather forecasts before they leave, however, as Tropical Storm Isaac continues to head north from the Gulf coast
“As they prepare to embark on their Labor Day vacation trips, local residents are urged to stay abreast of local forecasts both at their departure city and at their points of destinations,” said Lon Anderson, AAA Mid-Atlantic’s Managing Director of Public and Government Affairs. “While it is challenging to predict the impact that Hurricane Isaac may have on Labor Day travel plans, tropical storms and hurricanes, like this one, typically do not negatively influence travel at the national level.”
“It’s very encouraging that the total number of 2012 Labor Day holiday travelers across the nation and the Washington metro region is expected to reach a new post-recession high,” Anderson continued. “Even more encouraging, this is a travel ‘trifecta’ or the third such increase in holiday travel during this summertime. Clearly, Americans and Washingtonians are trying to put the recession behind them.”
According to AAA and the Associated Press, Thanksgiving airfare and the cost of filling a tank of gas are both up 20 percent this year.
Nonetheless, 42.5 million people nationwide are expected to hit the roads, rails and airways for Thanksgiving — the highest number since the beginning of the recession. Here in the Washington region, more than 1 million people are expected to travel for the holiday, and the vast majority of them will be getting to their destination via highways, according to AAA Mid-Atlantic.
Are you among the intrepid Thanksgiving travelers?
That’s a 11 percent increase over least year and the highest number of area residents heading out for Thanksgiving since 2007.
“The Washington metro area has one of the strongest economies in the nation, and as evidence of this, we will likely see a double digit up-tick in the number of area residents traveling 50 miles or more from home for the holiday,” AAA Mid-Atlantic spokesperson John B. Townsend II said in a statement.
Also driving Washington area travel is the fact that “only 40 percent of D.C. residents were actually born in D.C.,” according to AAA.
Surprisingly, a whopping 95.4 percent of those leaving town are expected to do so in a car. Only 3.4 percent are flying, and only 1.2 percent are taking a bus, train or boat.
How are you going home this year?
The automobile association says that DC-area drivers should “brace themselves” for the one-two punch of kids going back to school and workers returning from summer vacations today. After a two-month respite from the worst of the area’s traffic, things should be back to gridlock-as-usual — a “dreadful day of reckoning” known as “Terrible Traffic Tuesday.”
AAA notes that about 1.5 million local commuters drive to work solo on any given workday. The group says that despite the increasing number of people working from home, Metro’s recent troubles and the new peak-of-the-peak fare may be putting more cars on the road.
“With the recent fare increases and number of breakdowns, more and more people could be shying away from some of the area’s mass transit alternatives,” said AAA Mid-Atlantic spokesperson John Townsend.